Recent Posts:

How to approach investors with a component idea (components part 3)

Rob Day: October 7, 2010, 4:26 PM


In the last post I walked through questions entrepreneurs need to think through, research, and thoughtfully answer before attempting to turn a component-level cleantech innovation into a business.  And a natural next question is, "but who will fund this?"

It's perfectly okay if the answer is "hey, we're going to make a component and then sell that component or license it to OEMs."  But if so, you need to choose your potential investors wisely (in this case, probably angels and smaller venture firms focused on such business models, rather than the NEAs and Kleiners of the world).  And regardless of where you do believe you need to draw the boundaries for your future business,...

Drawing boundaries (components part two)

Rob Day: October 7, 2010, 4:12 PM


In the last post I lamented seeing so many entrepreneurs pitching components in cleantech, not fully fleshed out companies.  Then I helpfully mentioned that building a fully fleshed out company is really hard and expensive and often not the right choice.

So what is the entrepreneur to do?  

It's difficult to know exactly where to draw the line between what should be "owned", and what should be left to the rest of the value chain.  But it starts with listening to the customer, and everyone else involved in that industry.  

A. Talk to end users and the people selling to them, and figure out if there's a real pain point here.  Do this more than 3 times, do it 20 times.  And...

Components are not companies

Rob Day: October 7, 2010, 4:11 PM


Yesterday I had the pleasure of being one of the judges of the New England regional finals of the Cleantech Open, an annual nationwide cleantech business pitch competition.  I never get to do as many of these as I would like to, as it's always fun to see entrepreneurial efforts when they're still so new, and these events are also good for catching up with colleagues in cleantech investing (since so many of them also serve as judges).

As I was sitting there listening to the third of three pitches I saw yesterday, I was really struck by an emerging pattern, perhaps most starkly visible to me in that forum but also -- I realized -- prevalent in many pitches I receive these...

Some quick thoughts on a recent west coast swing

Rob Day: September 29, 2010, 11:40 PM

I clearly need to come visit the bay area more often.  Not only do I simply miss San Francisco, it's also always a super-busy trip as there are just way too many people to visit with in any single trip.  Maybe 14 meetings in 2.5 days doesn't sound like much to some, but when you consider travel time it adds up to some really full days...

  • No offense to Boston, but I got more high-quality deal leads in a couple of days here in SF than in a couple of weeks back east.  Maybe there's some selection bias at work there, not suggesting any hard and fast ratio or anything.  But the level of high-quality entrepreneurial cleantech energy (so to speak) in the bay area really does trump...

The two VCs within cleantech

Rob Day: September 23, 2010, 8:44 AM

It's been pretty fascinating to watch how many strong opinions have been expressed over the past couple of days regarding Fred Wilson's "two VCs" post (and then some others pointed at me after my response to his post). So I thought I would paraphrase some of what I heard (note: mostly NOT from Fred, but from others who've piled on) and give some replies.


Rob, are you saying Fred is wrong?

No. I totally agree with Fred that there's an important divergence of two very different approaches to venture capital right now -- the lean VC (put as little capital as possible to work in each company, grow it quickly and as low-cost as possible, and then sell it as early as possible),...

The two VCs

Rob Day: September 20, 2010, 10:38 PM

Fred Wilson recently wrote that there are now two venture capital industries: One software-based, and one that is capital intensive. He argues that the former has gone capital efficient, and the latter (including "cleantech, biotech and other capital intensive tech businesses") that "operates largely the same way it has operated for the past twenty or thirty years". It's a good post, as with many of his thoughts, well worth reading if you haven't seen it already. He mentions forthcoming data that should be interesting to see.

I think he's right. There really are two divergent strategies in venture capital right now. The one goes for as little cashburn and as quick an exit as...

It’s time: Cleantech needs more roll-ups

Rob Day: September 20, 2010, 9:24 AM

Rolling up startups is hard to do correctly.  It's easy to say that two companies would work better as a combined entity, but in reality it's quite difficult to do regardless of the scale of the companies involved -- you have cultural shifts to make, personnel who will need to change roles and perhaps leave, a combined set of investors to fit into the same size boardroom, significant operational disruption, not to mention the difficulties involved in pricing and structuring the deal, etc.

So it's not something to be bandied about loosely.  But nevertheless, I think it's time for more cleantech startups to be thinking about how they can team up and carry forward as combined efforts.